Environment

  • Using technology to help farmers adapt to climate change

    Hellen Mary Akiror’s livelihood relies on the right amount of rainfall coming at the right time.

    A farmer in Uganda’s Soroti district, Hellen lives with her husband and seven children. Growing millet, groundnuts, sorghum, cassava and potatoes on her four acres, she is dependent on rain-fed agriculture for her survival. Yet, she said, “Rainfall comes at the wrong time, in huge quantities, and stops when we need it most.”

    Hellen’s story is all too common. In 2014, I met Mukasa, an elderly Ugandan farmer grappling with the fact that his village was facing unpredictable rainfall and temperatures higher than any in living memory. At the same focus group discussion where I met Mukasa, I also met Father Philippe, the pastor of Mukasa’s parish. Father Philippe said, “We have sinned and the lack of rain and excess heat are the wrath of God.” Another parish member said, “We destroyed the trees and we are facing the consequences.”

    While the villagers’ explanations vary, all agree on one point — rainfall in the country is becoming scarce and unpredictable, and extreme heat is increasing in intensity and frequency. During the 80 years between 1911 and 1990, only eight droughts occurred, while in the 10 years between 1991 and 2000, the country experienced seven droughts. As in other sub-Saharan countries, higher temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts and floods in Uganda diminish food security, decrease the quantity and quality of water, and deteriorate natural resources.

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  • 4-step guide to how ICTs can help farmers adapt to climate change

    The Climate Change Adaptation and ICT (CHAI) project, co-implemented by FHI 360, uses ICT tools to provide climate adaptation information to more than 100,000 farmers in local languages in three intervention districts in Uganda with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity in communities vulnerable to climate change.

    This week CHAI won the UNFCCC 2015 Momentum for Change’s Lighthouse Activities Award for innovative and transformative solutions addressing climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.

    Studies conducted by the CHAI project showed that access to adaptation information improved by up to 48 percent in the intervention districts (Nakasongola, Sembabule and Soroti) compared to the control district (Rakai), while the effectiveness of adaptation actions that were based on information received through the project increased by up to 33 percent in the intervention areas compared to the control district.

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  • The Green Corrections Challenge

    The primary goal of corrections in the United States is keeping the community — everyone from offenders to those who work within prisons and jails — safe. Policies and strategies within the corrections community, however, increasingly emphasize cost containment and environmental sustainability. Addressing these two goals in tandem has proven to be a great opportunity for correctional leaders and their partners.

    FHI 360’s Green Corrections project contributes to the goal of making the corrections system more environmentally sustainable by facilitating the sharing of effective practices and lessons learned.

    A recent competition, the Green Corrections Challenge, highlighted exciting and innovative green practices in local, state and federal correctional facilities and reentry programs in the United States. The competition, part of the Green Corrections project, showed how dedicated corrections professionals are minimizing negative environmental impacts, saving taxpayer dollars and preparing offenders for green jobs.

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  • An interconnected approach to improving handwashing behaviors

    Each year on Global Handwashing Day, hundreds of millions of people around the world gather to celebrate the power of handwashing with soap to save lives. This day also provides an opportunity to consider the current status of the hygiene sector and catalyze further action. As we look toward the future of hygiene behavior change, we need to ensure that we are maximizing the broader topic of integrated development and fully considering its relationship to hygiene.

    Integrated development, which can be defined in many different ways, is increasingly being discussed within the international development community, and FHI 360 plays an active role in convening this conversation. I recently had the opportunity, on behalf of the Global Public–Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), to attend an event hosted by FHI 360 titled Does 1+1=3? Proving the Integration Hypothesis, which brought together expert panelists from academia, government, donors and nongovernmental organizations.

    I took away many key learnings from this event, but the one that stuck with me most is this: If we hope to move the needle on the most entrenched development challenges, we need to consider the benefits that could be offered by combining services or sectors.

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  • Creating and sustaining economic opportunity in Ukraine

    What is the Public–Private Partnerships Development Program in Ukraine?

    The Public–Private Partnerships Development Program (P3DP) is a five-year initiative to help Ukraine’s national and municipal governments engage the private sector in improving the country’s infrastructure and public services through effective public–private partnerships (PPP). When implemented, successful PPPs can directly benefit both individuals and communities, supporting greater confidence in government’s ability to deliver needed services to its citizens, and enhance a country’s economic competiveness. P3DP is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and led by FHI 360, with additional field expertise provided by the William Davidson Institute of the University of Michigan.

    What are the objectives of P3DP?

    P3DP has five key objectives: Improve the PPP legal and policy frameworks to create a viable environment for long-term contracts; establish a PPP unit within the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine to ensure continuity of legal and policy improvements; develop the capacity of individuals and institutions to implement and sustain PPPs; implement a series of pilot PPPs across the country in key sectors; and integrate environmentally conscious practices throughout each pilot.

    What progress have you made so far?

    P3DP helped to establish a standing PPP unit within the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. This was an important step toward increasing national and municipal capacity to partner with the private sector. FHI 360 has worked closely with this unit to determine the most viable and attractive sectors in which to develop pilot partnerships.

    P3DP has also held trainings, practical workshops, study tours, large conferences and other informational opportunities on PPPs to build interest and trust in the process of developing and sustaining public–private partnerships. By laying this groundwork, Ukraine is now ripe, from a legal and policy standpoint, for PPP opportunities. Even in these times of political uncertainty, opportunities for PPPs exist. When stability returns, the use of PPPs is expected to grow dramatically.

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  • Why family planning matters in the post-2015 development agenda

    The sun is setting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In 2015, the world will shift its focus toward a new development agenda. We know that family planning improves the health and well-being of women and families around the world. Now, as the next-generation goals expand the focus from social and human development to also include economic and environmental objectives, we should not underestimate the positive ripple effects of family planning across all three areas.

    Let’s first remind ourselves of family planning’s connection to all eight MDGs. Family planning: generates wealth and reduces hunger (MDG 1); prolongs education (MDG 2); empowers women and girls (MDG 3); saves infants (MDG 4); improves maternal health (MDG 5); prevents pediatric HIV (MDG 6); reduces pressure on the environment (MDG 7); and promotes global partnerships (MDG 8).

    Moving beyond 2015, the three health-related MDGs are likely to be condensed into one goal (Ensuring Healthy Lives). It is reassuring to see that “ensuring universal sexual and reproductive health and rights” is among the five sub-targets proposed within this goal. Moreover, exciting new support for family planning has been generated by passionate champion Melinda Gates and through global movements like Family Planning 2020. This promising momentum will not realize its full potential, however, without bold, outside-the-box approaches that reach people with family planning information and services. Given family planning’s wide-ranging benefits, we must now strengthen support for it in development sectors beyond health.

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  • FHI 360 celebrates World Oceans Day

    From the indigenous communities on the Miskito Coast of Honduras to the communities of northern Mozambique, FHI 360 programs are making an impact on the health of our oceans and the humans who depend on them. FHI 360 joins in the celebration of this year’s World Oceans Day on June 8 — an event first recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008. On this day, oceans are celebrated as vital lifelines of communities around the world. Oceans are essential to food, security and other economic activities totaling nearly US$215 billion. The planet’s oceans affect the health of people worldwide, our ecosystems and the air we breathe. FHI 360 is a part of this complex but thriving environment by managing a sustainable fisheries program on three continents, known as the Global FISH Alliance (G-FISH).

    “World Oceans Day recognizes that the ocean is the living link between humankind and the Earth,” says Jimmy Andino, Spiny Lobster Initiative Chief of Party, G-FISH in Honduras. “The ocean provides the perfect conditions so life on Earth can be possible. The ocean provides livelihoods for millions, shelter and breeding grounds for vast marine biodiversity and is responsible for regulating global atmospheric conditions on the planet. As dwellers of a living planet, we deserve a living ocean. It is our responsibility to protect and use it sustainably.”

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  • How ICT is helping farmers and combating climate change

    Greenhouse gases from agriculture account for over ten percent of total emissions globally, roughly equivalent to the entire global transport sector. Meanwhile, it is estimated that agricultural production will need to increase by about 70% by 2050 to keep pace with global population growth. What’s more, the real impacts of climate change on the agricultural sector are likely going to be hardest felt in many of those countries whose people rely on agriculture most for their livelihoods. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, for example, some estimates show a reduction in the productivity of most major food crops as a result of changes to the climate over the next forty years.

    While this may sound like a doom and gloom scenario, this Earth Day I want to focus on an area of promise: the increasing availability of affordable technologies that have the potential to reduce greenhouse gases and increase productivity in agriculture. I am referring here not to agricultural technologies—although those certainly play a role—but rather to information and communications technologies, like the mobile phone, video, and even radio. If you are wondering how a mobile phone, a video camera, and a radio might relate at all to climate change, allow me to explain.

    For starters, so-called “climate-smart” methods of agriculture, such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and others already exist. The challenge is that not all farmers know about them, there is no single prescription, and traditional practices can often die hard, particularly when you are working with very small margins and taking risks could spell utter ruin for yourself and your family. So how do ICTs change this? In short, they make it easier to share locally relevant information on improved techniques and to provide time-specific information and recommendations (such as weather forecasts, and when to do what).

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  • FHI 360’s Julia Rosenbaum discusses the power of small doable actions in water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs. FHI 360’s WASHplus program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports healthy households and communities by delivering interventions that lead to improvements in access, practices and health outcomes related to WASH and indoor air pollution. For more information on WASHplus, please visit www.washplus.org.

  • The Domino Effect of Family Planning

    Imagine a line of dominos stretched out as far as the eye can see, with additional lines branching off into the distance. This web of dominos represents the multiple connections between family planning and every dimension of sustainable development. What many still don’t comprehend is how large and far reaching this web truly is.

    We’ll begin with a simple and intuitive causal relationship: voluntary use of contraception prevents unintended pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies result in thousands of deaths globally and many more disabilities each year. Many unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. Almost half of the 40 million abortions performed each year are unsafe, placing nearly 20 million women at risk for infection, hemorrhage, disability, and death. Thus, contraception prevents unintended pregnancies and saves women’s lives.

    Dr. Ward Cates, President Emeritus at FHI 360, visits health workers that are involved with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Urban Health Initiative (UHI) in India.

    And the benefits of family planning don’t end with women. Families using contraception have fewer, healthier children and reduced economic burden. Children born to mothers who have used modern contraception in planning their families are not only more likely to have a mother, and one who is healthy, they also are more likely to have been breast fed for longer and received more parental attention, support and resources than children born in to families that were not planned. All of these factors increase the chances that they will survive infancy into childhood. Therefore, family planning also saves children’s lives. Moreover, if after childhood girls and women are given control over their fertility, they are more likely to stay in school and to get jobs. Educated, employed women are in turn more likely to use contraception, thus re-initiating the virtuous cycle of benefits that family planning brings to women and their families.

    The benefits still don’t end there. Ensuring that we can feed our growing population while protecting the planet has quickly become one of the most pressing challenges in sustainable development. Regions of the world with the highest unmet need for family planning are already forced to bear the burden of climate change effects to which they have contributed the least. These effects include drought and famine. Turning an extra acre of forest into tilled land is not a choice for a woman without access to reproductive health resources. It is a matter of survival. And it is a preventable scenario. Right now more than 200 million women worldwide want to plan and time their pregnancies but are unable to do so for lack of information and access to contraceptive resources. If the percentage of women with unmet family planning needs remains constant, developing country populations are expected hit 9.7 billion by 2050, and 25.8 billion by 2100. By filling this need, we could greatly relieve some of the combined pressures being placed on resources and communities, including a growing demand for food.

    The right and ability of women and couples to plan their families is not peripheral to the aims and objectives of Rio+20. Indeed, the call for greater attention to women’s rights and issues at Rio+20 is growing into a crescendo. Women’s Major Group is mobilizing women across the world to share their stories and ensure that women’s rights are front and center on the agenda. Over 100 of the world’s leading scientific academies have called upon world leaders to enact rational, evidence-based responses to sustainable development challenges, including global access to comprehensive reproductive health resources.

    Until now, too few people have been aware and too few leaders willing to acknowledge the essential role that family planning plays in achieving sustainable development. Rio+20 is our chance to tip this pivotal domino piece forward, and witness the measurable cascade of progress it evokes.